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Joe & Liz's 2009 European Adventure


ginzo
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Great report and pictures.

 

In all honesty, I'm 42 years old, have always lived in Belgium, and you have seen more of Brussels and Bruges than I ever did in 42 years time .

It's like only tourists from other countries visit Brussels! The few times I've been there, I hated it actually. Bruges is and will always be one of the most beautiful places in Belgium, so I'm happy the OP didn't skip on that one!

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The few times I've been there, I hated it actually.

 

For being the capitol of the European Union, I was underwhelmed. But I was only there for a few hours. It was basically just a long stopover between London and Bruges. We figured we'd check it out since we had to transfer trains there anyway.

 

It's interesting how the regions of Belgium are so different. Bruges is so clean and nice, while Brussels isn't so clean.

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Here is my second set of photos from Bruges.

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Craptacular shot of the main square of Bruges. All that seating was set up because they were going to bring Jesus's "blood" out the following day and parade it around the main square.

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But at least we got a nice view from the top of the bell tower, not a heart attack like the fat American did in "In Bruges".

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The definition of sucker: Paying 8 euros to climb 366 very steep stairs.

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The true Bruges experience: drinking alcohol at noon.

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This is a pretty tasty local brew.

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Canal during the day.

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This city fascinates me, I really hope to visit. I'd rather do Brugge and Antwerpen before Brussels. Flanders > Wallonia

 

If you do make it to Bruges, definitely try to stay in the B&B we stayed in:

 

http://www.b-bverhulst.com/

 

It's not the cheapest place, but it's really good. The owners are dedicated to making sure you have a good time in their city.

 

I still need to check out Antwerp. It seems to be more popular among Dutch tourists than international ones.

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After we left Bruges, we took a series of trains to Amsterdam. We had some problems with this because it turned out to be a holiday, Ascension Day. We had no idea that reservations would be required on this day to get a seat on one of the trains. Oh well, they let us ride in the boarding area of the train. Not comfortable, but at least we got there.

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I don't know what "ladies parking" means in Amsterdam. If you do, email Dan (mrt0ad@aol.com)!

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A carriage awaits to take you to your airport hotel.

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Damn good question! Does anyone here have the Lichtenstein country credit?

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Amsterdam Centraal train station. I made a serious error in booking a hotel out by the airport. Sure I got a great price, but staying 30 minutes away from the city is not a good idea. Pay the extra money to stay in the city center!

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Back to the canals!

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Inside a coffee shop. I only enjoyed a soda there. Seriously.

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Another canal shot.

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Just one more reason to love this place.

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I took seemingly thousands of pictures of the canals.

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The town is full of interesting shops like this.

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And here we are in Amsterdam.

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This city fascinates me, I really hope to visit. I'd rather do Brugge and Antwerpen before Brussels. Flanders > Wallonia

 

If you do make it to Bruges, definitely try to stay in the B&B we stayed in:

 

http://www.b-bverhulst.com/

 

It's not the cheapest place, but it's really good. The owners are dedicated to making sure you have a good time in their city.

 

I still need to check out Antwerp. It seems to be more popular among Dutch tourists than international ones.

That B&B looks great, although a lil bit expensive. I'm definitely going to tell my parents about that.

 

One shop I always love when I'm in Bruges is the candystore with all the pink lights and mirrors. It's on your right when you walk from the station to the center. Guess I'm still a 8-year old every now and then :D

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Flanders > Wallonia

 

It sure is. But watch out : Brussels is Flanders ! It's because of a lot of inhabitants are speaking french, that you might think it belongs to our french speaking neightbours (Wallonia), but it really isn't.

 

Not that I'm a big fan of Brussels. I have to attend a gala dinner in Brussels related to work on Monday and I can't say I'm looking forward going there. Just because it's in Brussels

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The red part is Brussels. As you can see clearly in Flanders.

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It sure is. But watch out : Brussels is Flanders ! It's because of a lot of inhabitants are speaking french, that you might think it belongs to our french speaking neightbours (Wallonia), but it really isn't.

 

Wow, I thought that Brussels was in Wallonia because basically everyone there spoke French. This is all pretty dicey for us Americans as the concept of various regions of the same country speaking different languages is "foreign" to us. The main example we're familiar with is the locals speaking French in Quebec.

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Wow, I stayed in that exact hotel the last time I was at Amsterdam. It did suck that it was a 30 min. train ride to the city center but we got a discount because my mom works for that hotel's company's corporate office. Did you go to the Red Light District?

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Joe - I'll certainly be picking your brain when I start looking into hotels for my add-on after the Europe Tour via rail.

 

I plan on seeking shelter near the major rail stations in Augsburg, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Budapest.

 

Sure, we got hotels in Munich and Salzburg via Priceline bids for very low prices. Like in the $65-$70 range. The Salzburg hotel was right by the train station, but the Munich hotel required a subway (U-Bahn) ride.

 

If you need to reserve any trains, I suggest stopping by the EurAide office in the Munich train station. It's run by an American who really knows his stuff and is hilarious.

 

B&Bs will give you better service (more local sightseeing help). You can find good ones by just checking the ratings on TripAdvisor. But it might cost you more than using Priceline bids. Priceline has some amazing deals in bigger European cities, at least they did last summer. Though things like breakfast and Internet are never included and will cost way too much.

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Here are just a couple more photos from Amsterdam:

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You really have to love Amsterdam.

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Another look at "Our Lord in the Attic".

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Catholicism was banned in Holland in the 16th century. The ever tolerant Dutch built this groovy church, Our Lord in the Attic, to give Catholics a place to worship. Not really my scene, but a hoot of a building.

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After we left Amsterdam, we took a few trains down to the Rhine Valley in Germany. The Rhine Valley is storybook Germany. Lots of castles, vineyards, half-timbered buildings, etc. It is one of my favorite corners of Germany. Very sleepy and relaxing.

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And this is what happens when you drink German wine. Sorry Germany! Stick to making beer.

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In Bacharach, we decided to do a wine tasting.

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Zee mighty Rhine River.

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This is the town we slept in, Bacharach. Amazingly well-preserved. No modern buildings at all.

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One of the countless vineyards in this region. A very creative use of otherwise worthless land.

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This robber baron castle probably levied a toll on whomever crossed this part of the Rhine. If you didn't pay the toll, they'd throw you into the dungeon.

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Basically the whole area looks as nice as this.

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One of the countless castles in this part of the Rhine.

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You get what you pay for.

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We did not sleep in this town, but it has an amazing ruined castle that I'll show later.

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One of an infinite number of boats on the Rhine.

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To get to the Rhine Valley from Amsterdam, you have to connect through Cologne. Here is Cologne's main train station. Behind me is Cologne Cathedral.

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I had a buddy who went to Germany a couple of years ago and they were able to take a boat cruise down the Rhine River. You are right, this area of the country looks absolutely amazing!

 

We did a boat ride down the Rhine, but it was just the hour ride from St. Goar to Bacharach. Our rail passes got us on for free. There are TONS of castles along that stretch of the Rhine. Unfortunately, it was very hazy and most of the pictures came out poorly.

 

Thanks for the nice comments, everyone. We had an amazing time on the pre-trip. I hope this TR shows that.

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Connecting to the mighty Rhine River, is a smaller tributary called the Mosel River. The two rivers connect near a town called Koblenz, which means "confluence" in German, if I'm not mistaken.

 

At the confluence of these two rivers, there is a little piece of land called the Deutsches Eck, or German Corner, that has a giant statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, the first German Emperor. Apparently, the Deutsche Eck holds a fairly special place in the hearts of the German people. But, I did not go there.

 

Instead, I took the train from Bacharach up to Koblenz, and then connected to another "milk run" (aka slow ass) train to the Mosel River valley and got off at a town called Moselkern.

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This is as close to the inside of the castle as I am allowed to show you. Sorry, but pictures were not allowed inside. This castle still has mostly original furnishings, which is exceptionally rare in castles. Thanks to the Eltz family for still allowing us grotty tourists to take a look-see inside their amazing castle.

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Everyone is queuing up for a tour of the castle, except for the child behaving badly.

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Inside the courtyard of Burg Eltz.

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This is currently the restaurant/WC (bathroom in American). I do not know its historic use.

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The approach. There is actually a watchtower behind us.

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Another key to having a good defensive castle is to put it on top of a hill. Hence this climb.

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Liz acting Japanese in front of the German castle.

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If you don't want your castle to be overtaken, it's a good idea to put it back in the middle of nowhere. And that's exactly what this family did. This castle has been in the same family for over 700 years!

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And there it is! Burg Eltz.

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There are two basic kinds of castles, fortresses for defensive purposes and palaces for showing off. A "Burg" is a defensive castle. A palace is a "Schloss". Thus, we're walking towards a defensive castle placed out in the middle of the woods. In coaster enthusiast terms, we're headed to Knoebels.

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Rock porn.

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In any event, it was a very nice walk.

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For some reason, I feel compelled to lie and tell you that this is the Black Forest, but it's not. That's further south from here.

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When we got to the Moselkern train station, they had a sign that said "no taxis available". So, we had to walk for about 90 minutes through a forest that looked like this. Rough life, huh?

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This is as close to the inside of the castle as I am allowed to show you. Sorry, but pictures were not allowed inside.

 

Well that's just great. I guess our plan to document the inner workings of the castle in an effort to formulate a takeover plan have been foiled. My family is truly disappointed, Joe. We really wanted this castle as our own!

 

 

Seriously though, this report rocks. Dare I say, I might actually be disappointed when you finally get to the coasters. These culture pics are great!

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^It would be a great castle to takeover. It's so quiet back there. And no HOA sending you letters telling you that you need to power wash your turrets. I bet there are plenty of modern amenities in the part of the castle they didn't take us through on the tour.

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After we left Burg Eltz, we quickly made the journey through the woods back to the Moselkern train station. I knew that Klotten, the awesome rural German amusement park that TPR visited in 2007, was just a few stops down the line.

 

But I didn't really have a lot of information to go on. I made a last minute decision to try and go to the park. I tried to access the park's website from my Blackberry and failed. I knew that the park had some sort of chairlift that would take you up to the park from town, but I had no idea where the lift was.

 

So, I did the natural thing and got off at the Klotten train station, thinking that this was where the amusement park was. After all, the park is called "Klotten", right?

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Splash! I love this ride. It really does seem like the boat could flip over when it hits the water.

 

We did not spend long in the Klotten amusement park. Despite the total lack of English speakers, we found the chairlift, which brought us down to another town called Cochem. We had gotten off at the wrong train station. Oh well, at least it worked out and we didn't get heat stroke.

 

Klotten was a great little park. Thanks to Robb & Elissa for finding it and documenting it so well in their 2007 Mini Europe Trip. There is no way I would have gone here without them blazing the trail.

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Oh, there she is.

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Where did Liz go?

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Eagle! You can sort of tell here that Klotten, the amusement park, is basically on top of a mountain.

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Baby goat.

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After a long time of walking uphill in the heat, we finally got into the park. So, of course we went straight for the livestock.

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Yes, we had walked 2 km up a mountain at this point and still had a long way to go in the heat. This sign was still not that close to the park.

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Fail. Not only did we not find the chairlift. We had to walk up this giant mountain in the blistering heat while BMWs whizzed by us and looked at us like we were crazy.

 

Note the distance I kept from Liz. This is how you avoid getting beaten by your wife when you pull a Clark Griswold.

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